“Aye be whaur/Extremes meet,” Hugh MacDiarmid’s Drunk Man declared in his seminal poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.1 “[I]t’s the only way I ken/To dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt/That damns the vast majority o’ men” (141-4)2. MacDiarmid, throughout the poem, refuses to shy away from the befuddled space that lies between opposites; in fact, he consistently embraces the contradictory over the uniform. For MacDiarmid, truth does not lie at one ideological pole or another, rather at some point in the middle. This gravitating towards a center, however, cannot be misinterpreted as mere simplistic concession or petty moderation for the sake of convenience. MacDiarmid wishes to “dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt,” not claim one solitary objective truth. The poet deliberately emphasizes ambivalence and extremity, in an attempt to grasp the perplexing and intense nature of human existence.
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